Over the years, yoga has grown in popularity. It started as something that was once obscure and catered to a small audience. As it has evolved, yoga has entered the mainstream and many people are more intrigued by this ancient practice. Yoga originated in India and is over 5,000 years old. It was a philosophy that was taught to people in order for them to lead healthy lives: mentally and spiritually. In this modern age, ancient teachings still apply, but yoga went through many transformations over the centuries. Today, we enjoy physically active yoga classes in addition to gentle meditative practices.
Students have stepped into yoga studios, community centers, and gyms to take yoga classes to help with tight muscles, to gain more strength, to improve their posture, to enhance their flexibility, and much more. But yoga, of course, goes beyond the physical. It is also a practice that affects the mind in a good way. It brings clarity to a foggy mind, yoga reduces stress and anxiety, and it can also help with symptoms of mental illness. More and more studies are now being generated to show the effectiveness of the yoga practice. Evidence is emerging to reveal how yoga as a complimentary source of treatment can help with other chronic ailments. Diabetes is one of those conditions that can remain stable with an added yoga practice.
Diabetes mellitus is a condition where a person’s blood cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced in the body or not enough is produced by the body. As a result, the body is unable to process blood sugar in its system. More seriously, if diabetes is left untreated, these high blood sugar levels can damage your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and the heart. Medication is often prescribed, like tablets or insulin injections, in order for the body to rid itself of the excess blood sugar.
As mentioned, yoga has entered the mainstream and is practiced by all sorts of people for various reasons. It has helped people have more functional physical bodies as well as reduce mental stress. How does yoga do these things? One of the main components of yoga, whether you’re practicing a series of poses in a Hot Yoga class or sitting in stillness in a Mindfulness Meditation class, is focusing on the breath. In yoga, breath is the foundation of the practice. It grounds you, brings you to place of stillness, helps to calm the mind and body. The breath makes you more aware and remain in the present. Further, yoga breathing is an intentional process that also helps with improving blood and oxygen flow. It regulates the parasympathetic nervous system so that your stress response is triggered less. Yoga breathing can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, too. These are all beneficial to someone who may be living with diabetes.
In addition to your regular check-ups and your prescribed medications, you may want to add yoga to your day to day activity. Yoga can certainly help and assist you with feeling better on a daily basis. Of course, yoga cannot take the place of your regular treatment of diabetes, but it is complementary to maintaining good health. Practicing yoga regularly can help reduce your blood sugar level, lower your blood pressure, and it can help manage your weight. Stress can be related to weight gain. Yoga can help with regulating your stress levels thereby controlling some of the unnecessary weight gain attributed to some diabetic conditions. Further, a consistent practice can significantly reduce the severity of some symptoms related to diabetes.
There are many styles of yoga one can practice; yoga has something for everyone. There are a whole host of classes in which you’ll be moving your body through various poses and sequences. These types of classes can certainly help with flexibility, strength, range of motion, and balance. And because you are in motion, it gets your blood flowing as you breathe with intention while you’re transitioning from pose to pose or holding a yoga posture. This is all very beneficial to your system in regards to overall health. Certain poses can even help lower your blood pressure and your blood sugar levels. That is due to the improved circulation that is a result of your moving yoga practice.
But if a moving practice seems a little intimidating, then you may want to consider something that has less movement and focuses more on relaxation. These are also very beneficial if you’re looking to reduce stress. A simple breathing practice can be a good place to start.
Sit comfortably upright in a chair or on the floor against a wall. Use a cushion or blanket to sit on. If possible, be in a room or space that is quiet with no outside distractions. Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breathing. You don’t have to do anything special or different with your breath, necessarily. Just simply be aware that you are taking breath in and releasing breath out. Slow steady breaths is the key. If you’d like, perhaps put on some soft music to help you relax. That is the intention: to come to stillness so you can soften and quiet your mind. Focusing on your breath will keep your mind present; the worries, distractions, and other stressors begin to disappear. Breathing is the foundation of most yoga practices. Whether you are moving through yoga sequences or sitting in meditation, breathing will bring you to that calm state of mind.
Yoga can also involve gentle movements and postures. Restorative Yoga is an increasingly popular style of yoga that can be practiced by anyone. Because stress is a condition one wants to manage while living with diabetes, this is an ideal yoga practice. In Restorative Yoga, rather than being in constant motion, you actually recline on the floor using comfortable yoga props to support you. These include blankets, soft bolsters, blocks, and other items so that you can fully release and relax. The idea is to rest your body, which in turn slows down your heart rate. Slow and steady breathing is also practiced to help increase this relaxed feeling throughout the body. Here are a few poses you may practice in a Restorative Yoga class at a studio, but ones you may also be able to replicate on your own at home.
Legs Against The Wall
Poor circulation and swelling can be a symptom of diabetes. Practicing a pose in which you can elevate your legs and feet can help improve your circulation. Legs Against the Wall is a restorative yoga pose you can try.
Start by laying out a blanket on the floor next to a clear wall. Sit near one of the edges of the mat closest to the wall. You want to arrange your self, so your hip is against the wall. Proceed to lie down on your blanket while swinging your legs up to extend along the wall. Hold this posture for 3 to 5 minutes. The elevation of the legs can decrease the swelling that can sometimes develop in your legs. This is also a good way to regulate your circulation. And of course, this is a very relaxing position for your entire body. Practicing this pose several times a week can foster a decrease in swelling, facilitating better blood flow to help reduce blood pressure.
Another wonderfully relaxing restorative yoga position is Supported Savasana. The word “Savasana” means “corpse pose,” which means you’ll be lying down on your back for this posture. Sometimes, though, lying flat on your back on the floor is not comfortable. You’ll want to use yoga props to help make this position more conducive to your overall bodily comfort. Lying on a blanket can help with this. Also, use a large pillow or bolster to tuck underneath your knees. This will slightly elevate your legs and keep them in a comfortable position. You could also elevate your upper body to a relaxing posture, too, to increase your ease and comfort. Any reposing yoga posture can be quite beneficial to you; it continues this process of decreasing your heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and improving circulation.
Restorative Yoga postures such as these, when practiced regularly, will also reduce your stress and clear your mind. As mentioned, a relaxing yoga practice regulates the parasympathetic nervous system. Feeling more calm will reduce the stress response in the brain. With lower stress levels, this has a direct effect on your blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels. Further, you’ll experience less stress-related headaches, and you’ll have more energy and a positive effect on your circulation. If all of these can be monitored with the assistance of yoga practice, you’re less likely to experience the adverse effects of diabetes. Your overall health can improve when you apply the discipline of yoga to your regular medical regimen.